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10 tips for gay couples traveling together

10 tips for gay couples traveling together

If you were to scroll through our Instagram feed or browse our website, you may get the impression that we are nothing but super adventurous, carefree, and audacious bimbos.

And you’d be 100% correct!

But just like doing the hanky panky, we believe when it comes to travel, it’s important to stay safe, be comfortable, and know what we’re getting ourselves into.

Our point is that while you should have fun, you should make sure you're doing so safely. Unfortunately, we all know parts of the world aren’t as progressive as we’d like them to be, so doing research and prepping yourself as much as possible will help make your trip run smoothly regardless of where you go.

Of course, after you’ve made those safety checks, you’re going to want to let your hair down and find out where the gay heart of your destination lies.

So, without further ado, here are our top tips for traveling as a gay couple.

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How to Stay Safe Whilst Traveling?

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1. Safety first

Safety is a concern for many LGBTQ couples planning a trip together. Picking the right destination can make all the difference, with some countries gayer than others. Of course, there are always grey areas. For instance, while America as a whole is a gay-friendly nation, some of its cities aren’t that progressive.

To get started on research, look no further than our darling selves! We always add a section into each of our guides about the social climate for LGBTQ people, noting the countries laws, local attitudes, and the vitality of its gay scenes.

If we haven’t covered a certain area, you can look up travel advice websites, such as these ones from the US, the UK, or even a good old-fashioned Lonely Planet guidebook – yup we still read them with much gusto! We use these all the time before our trips to avoid any nasty surprises on arrival and highly advise you do too.

Lonely Planet gay couple traveling tips
Safety first ya'll – make sure you get the full safety T before heading anywhere!

2. Consider the anti-gay laws carefully!

Sadly, there are a handful of touristy places all around the world that have archaic anti-gay laws in places such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Dubai, and the Maldives.

Our initial reaction to these places was anger – along the lines of “How dare they? Well, why should I give them my tourist dollars?!” In other words, “Make us illegal? Then we're only too happy to boycott you!” We urge you to read more about our feelings towards this attitude in the relevant section below.

But from a practical safety consideration, we've found that in most touristic places which have these awful laws in place, they are rarely enforced, especially against foreigners! We've never had any problems traveling in countries that have anti-gay laws… but we've always been super cautious about PDAs in such places and certainly don't go around waving rainbow flags!

The point is, as long as you're cautious and prudent, the anti-gay laws shouldn't deter you from visiting a place.

Gay couple travel safety tips
Check if doing this in public is likely to get you arrested! Thankfully this was taken in Barcelona

3. What's the T with PDA?

As much as it sucks, the LGBTQ community must do more research and use more caution when visiting a new place than a straight couple would. Something as simple as holding hands could ignite The Fury of some bigoted moron in even the most liberal of places.

That being said, we generally have felt very safe in engaging in PDA (public displays of affection) in places like Amsterdam or Barcelona. While in cities like Dubai or Kuala Lumpur, we tend to hold back.

We recommend that when out and about, use your self-awareness to see whether your surroundings are safe before doing anything.

Traveling gay couple tips is public displays of affection safe?
Check if you need to avoid PDAs and waving rainbow flags in public!

4. Connect with gay locals

Throughout our travels, we've met many gay locals, who were excited to show us around their locality.

Not only is this a great way to meet new friends, but it means we get to learn about all the hidden gems a place has to offer, even places that many travel websites might not write about. After all, the locals can give you special insight into what bars to check out and the best times to hit them up in a way that the Internet or a brochure can’t.

We find locals to meet up with either through mutual friends, in bars, or via mobile apps. In the past, we’ve used Grindr and Tinder (being sure to note our intentions in the bio that we’re just looking to hangout). Other apps like Bumble are made especially for people who just want to be buddies.

Connecting with gay local in Tokyo one of our top gay travel tips
Shintaro from Tokyo is one of our favorite local friends we've made on our travels

5. Look for gay friendly accomodation

Scope out the availability of gay-friendly accommodation before traveling, and if possible, book yourself into them. Staying at one not only ensures your safety but also means you're supporting the local LGBTQ community.

Certain cities like Barcelona have gay hotels and hostels for LGBTQ people to stay in, which are easy enough to find as they are heavily marketed as “a gay hotel”. Other places may have a rainbow symbol on their website or an ‘LGBTQ-friendly’ tag in their information sections. Plus, the closer they are to the gay scene (if there is one), the more gay-friendly that place is likely to be.

For hotels that don’t specify themselves as being “gay friendly”, we go a longer route. Either we go off a friend’s recommendation or failing that, we call the hotel and ask them if they're OK with two men sharing a bed. Trust us, it’s much less awkward than arriving at your hotel and watching the receptionist blush when they realize you aren’t brothers or “very good friends.”

We recommend checking out our detailed guide on how to find gay friendly accommodation on our Gay Travel page.

Looking for gay accommodation is a top travel safety tip for gay couples traveling
Make sure your hotel is gay friendly and accepting of gay couples

6. Take out good travel insurance

We can’t tell you the number of times our travel insurance has saved our necks. We’ve experienced ordeals like missing flights and losing luggage multiple times! Luckily, neither of us have become sick or injured when traveling, but if it ever does happen, we’re always confident knowing it will be covered by our insurance.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking nothing is going to happen, especially if you’re only going on a short trip. But in the very slight chance anything does, you’d be in deep trouble if you weren’t fully covered.

If you have private health insurance, check with your provider to see if that coverage extends to accidents or injuries abroad. And if you don’t, finding suitable cover is so easy and inexpensive.

So, before you jet off, Google what your options are in your country and get insured! We personally always use and recommend World Nomads for travel insurance, as they're a global company made up of passionate travelers who want to ensure others get to experience the world, safely.

Taking out good travel insurance is an imporant tip for gay couples traveling
Travel insurance is paramount when trekking high altitudes in the Himalayas in Nepal

7. Factor in lots of solo “me” time

One of the things we hadn't anticipated before traveling together was how much time we'd spend together, all the time!

Don't get me wrong, I love my Seby more than life itself. He's my everything, my family, the core of my existence, yadda yadda yadda… But back when we were in our 9 to 5 jobs, we'd separate in the morning (like most couples do), then reunite in the afternoon. Traveling together, that separation time has disappeared!

This is why we have this top tip for gay couples traveling together – make sure to factor in sufficient “me” time for one another, whether it's for a few hours or days. It's healthy and prevents unnecessary and petty arguments from arising over nothing. Then when you reunite, you realize just how much you've missed each other.

Find a spa. Go for a walk. Take your time nursing that cocktail. Make it all about you! But the most important thing to take away from this is, make sure you make enough time for you!

Always factor in plenty of solo "me" time for gay couples traveling
The importance of “me” time!

8. Learn the art of COMPROMISE!

Compromise is the secret to any successful relationship. This is also something you'll realize when you start traveling as a gay couple!

If your partner insists on, say, staying in a five-star hotel (ahem Seby!), but you're more of a backpacker/adventurer type, you'll both need to compromise… You, the backpacker, perhaps could agree on staying in a 5 star if your partner paid for it. Or you could both agree to stay in a more down-to-earth hotel, or perhaps split the type of accommodations throughout your vacations. Spend a couple of days in luxury and then spend a couple of days in a hostel or camping…

The same applies to eating out and activities. We've always managed to find a way forward together – always with plenty of arguments/bickering, but it has ultimately taught both of us the art of compromising to factor in what the other wants as well.

Camping with Mongolian nomads in the Gobi Desert staying in their ger
That one time Seby compromised to allow us to camp with Mongolian nomads in the Gobi Desert

9. Make memories, take pictures

We’ll never understand the kind of people who visit a new place and eat out in McDonald’s (as delicious as those McNuggets are). You’re traveling somewhere to experience a new culture – so embrace it as much as you can. Find out what there is to do that can’t be done anywhere else – and do it!

And don’t be afraid to take pictures. It can feel a bit cheap at times to want to snap everything on your phone instead of enjoying the moment. But at the end of the day, it’s your memories that you’re making, and you should have something to show for it.

We feel it’s all about balance. Take in the moment as much as you can, and when appropriate, take 1 or 2 cheeky pics, and let that be that. You don’t have to be like a sullen teenager numbly staring at their screen the whole time, but you also don’t have to be that ole’ codger tutting at all the people taking pics.

Leo Varadkar and Justin Trudeau sashaying the streets of Montreal during Canada Pride
There are just some moments in life you simply NEED to photograph!

10. Trust your guts

No one knows you better than your own gut. And when you can’t rely on anything else, rely on your instinct. We’ve felt both as safe and unsafe in our home city of London as we have anywhere else in the world.

We’re always surveying our surroundings for anything that might cause us problems. If we think a situation is a bit suss, we adjust our behavior accordingly. Bottom line: don’t go anywhere with any notions on how tolerant or intolerant somewhere is. Make your own judgments as you go, and you’ll be fine.

After all, the most important part of any journey is to enjoy yourself. Keep these tips in mind, get that passport updated, and have fun!

Always trust your gut reaction one of our top safety tips for gay couples traveling
At the end of the day, trust your gut reaction!

Is it ethical to spend money in countries that criminalize their LGBTQ communities?

“Why should I spend my touris dollars in a place that wants to throw me in jail?!”

That is a common reaction by many LGBTQ travelers to countries that have archaic anti-gay laws in place. And we get it! We also used to feel very passionately about this. It's quite a slap in the face.

However, after visiting a lot of these places we quickly realized that boycotting them is totally counterproductive. As well as depriving yourself of seeing a stunning part of the world, you're actually causing more harm than good by not going. More importantly, we found it is more productive to go there, show that gay people are “normal” and support local gay-friendly businesses. By not going, you're only harming the local LGBTQ community who benefit from connecting with queer foreigners.

And finally, we strongly believe that meeting and engaging with gay locals is far more productive than refusing to visit their country in the first place. Imagine you were in their shoes, would you prefer your gay brothers and sisters abroad to ignore you, or come over and embrace and support you?

We sure know what we'd choose.

And you'll make heaps of friends along the way!

Connecting with LGBTQ locals is an excellent tip for gay couples traveling
Connecting with LGBTQ locals wherever we go!

For more inspiration:

These are our tried and tested tips for gay couples to stay safe while traveling the world
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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

James

Monday 15th of March 2021

RIGHT ON! You nailed each point eloquently. I've been to most of these countries and have never felt threatened. I've actually been more aware and concern for the local people (gay and gay-friendly) who have the courage to meet and spend time with me (although my mannerism in public is more like you guys - regular "dudes" - so there probably nothing very obvious to the casual onlooker), but still, I sense sometimes that the gay locals I get to know are putting themselves at some risk, so I let them take the lead with what they are comfortable with. GREAT POST GUYS!

Stefan Arestis

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Thanks James :)

Derek Williams

Friday 24th of July 2020

India has repealed its old British anti-gay law, and that is reason enough to help the country heal from one of the last vestiges of colonialism. I for one, would be more than happy now to visit India, and very much hope to visit again, one day.

As for the 76 other countries that still criminalise gay relationships between LGBT+ people, I would never visit such a place unless I was prepared to lose my freedom in a far-away prison. Before placing myself in harm's way, I would prepare well in advance so the experience was documented and publicised. It would be solely for activist reasons, not for touring pleasure.

Even for countries where it's partly legal to be gay, but there is no protection of civil rights, such as Russia, and its former Soviet possessions, I would prepare for it to be a one way trip, given the rising animus in those countries against LGBT+ citizens and the lack of respect for human life.

Stefan Arestis

Friday 24th of July 2020

Agreed - going to many of these places, one should take care.

Ryan

Friday 28th of September 2018

I feel safe traveling in Thailand, I think that country is very friendly to LGBT.

I'm living in a city in Indonesia, different with Bali, my city is homophobic, if we caught dating in public, it's possible we will be end up in police station, or if we caught by "low level" economy people, we will be beaten.

The trick when I was traveling to many cities in Indonesia is go with lesbian couple, so everyone thought we're an ordinary couple :)

Btw, I'm so jealous with you guys, looks like you have very happy life, meanwhile I'm struggling living in homophobic zone.

Nomadic boys

Friday 28th of September 2018

Thanks Ryan! We truly hope things start to change one day.

Chinnaiah Ramamoorthi

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

You guys look like you are having way too much fun!!! Enjoy guys :)

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

We sure try :)

Maggie

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

I have heard that China has a thriving underground scene. Did you get to see any of that while there?

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

We sure did- especially in Beijing and Xi’An. In Shanghai however it’s not underground at all and very much out there :)

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